The Scoop on Sweet Peppers
Crunchy, sweet bell peppers are a favorite food item for many. In fact, the average adult in the United States consumes about 9Â˝ pounds of bell peppers a year! Sweet bell peppers are found in a variety of bright colors from yellow, to red, to green. Do you know all the fun and healthy ways to bring bell peppers into your cooking?
How itâ€™s grown: Peppers grow best in a warm environment of at least 60Â° F. Grown commercially, they may be planted in a greenhouse then transplanted to a field. Bell peppers love company â€“ sometimes a field of them has more than 10,000 plants per acre! Peppers are typically harvested by hand, then kept refrigerated to prolong their shelf life. Florida and California are the top pepper producers in the United States.
How to shop for it: Choose bell peppers that feel firm and heavy, with smooth, glossy skin.
How to store it: Bell peppers can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days. If you donâ€™t plan to use the pepper right away, cover it with a damp paper towel to help it hold its moisture and stay crisp.
How to prepare it: Wash under cold water, then use a paring knife to remove the stem. The pepper can then be sliced into rings or strips, chopped or prepared however the recipe calls for.
How to eat it:
- Raw bell peppers cut into thick strips are a perfect vehicle for hummus or tzatziki sauce. Serve with 100% whole-grain pita chips and other raw veggies for a solid snack or mini-meal.
- Bell pepper strips are a great addition to Mexican fajitas or Chinese stir-fry.
- Make â€śeggs in a holeâ€ť using rings of sliced bell pepper instead of bread: Place bell pepper rings in a large, greased skillet over medium heat, then crack an egg in each pepper ring. Allow to cook for 3 minutes, then carefully flip each ring. Sprinkle each egg with grated Parmesan cheese and cook for another minute. Breakfast is served!
- For a low-carb twist on nachos, use fresh, crisp bell pepper slices instead of tortilla chips. Use halved mini peppers, or cut several large peppers into triangular â€śchips.â€ť Arrange on a baking sheet, then top with black beans and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven at 400Â° F for 5-10 minutes, until cheese melts. Then top with your favorite nacho toppings, such as diced tomato, avocado, olives or sour cream (or substitute plain nonfat Greek yogurt for the sour cream, for another healthy twist!).
Nutritional highlights: A cup of chopped pepper slices contains 200% of your daily value for vitamin C! Thatâ€™s more than twice the amount an orange contains. Peppers are also a good source of vitamin A. That same one-cup serving also provides 3 grams of dietary fiber. Like most vegetables, a pepper is naturally low in saturated fat and sodium. Bell peppers also contain disease-fighting antioxidants and are particularly high in two types of carotenoids, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
For more information about dietitian services, visit www.TheLittleClinic.com/dietitians.